- Culture or Structure?Understanding the Complexities of Pakistan
In recent years, Pakistan has received a fair amount of attention largely from journalists, think tank analysts, and a handful of writers from the scholarly community. After neglecting the paradoxes of this country for several decades, Western scholars have finally started to look at it more seriously. I suspect the reluctance to do hard-nosed analysis of Pakistan was probably due to its pivotal role for the United States during the Cold War and, since September 11, in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Despite academic freedom, Western scholars often implicitly follow the lead of their governments on such countries of strategic value. Liberal scholars also often tend to see Pakistan’s struggles as imposed on it, blaming the lack of a solution to the Kashmir problem as the number one impediment to Pakistan’s proper democratic transformation. Political correctness is a big challenge here. Pakistan’s military and diplomatic communities have shown extraordinary dexterity in covering up their pet geopolitical projects in order to bargain for continued military and economic aid from the West and international financial institutions without undertaking necessary reforms. However, as U.S. policy toward India and Pakistan underwent some major changes in recent years, it now is easier to publish critical work on Pakistan. Washington no longer hyphenates the two and has started to give India the status of a rising major power. The “double games” that the Pakistani military has been playing in the war on terrorism have also created a sense in Washington that “enough is enough” in propping up Pakistan’s military elite.
Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War by C. Christine Fair and The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan by Aqil Shah offer useful pathways to understanding the Pakistani army’s societal dominance and its persistent organizational and cultural pathologies. They follow works by Stephen Cohen (The Idea of Pakistan, 2004), Husain Haqqani (Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, 2005), and Shuja Nawaz (Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within, 2008). Fair is more direct and critical of the Pakistani army, using the lens of a strategic culture approach. The key to understanding Pakistan’s behavior, her book claims, lies in strategic culture, which encompasses “the collectivity of its corporate [End Page 158] beliefs, values, and norms as well as the accumulating weight of its historical experiences” (p. 5). Fair argues that Pakistan’s apprehensions about India are driven more by ideology than security. This ideology is founded on an idea of undermining India’s dominant position within South Asia and beyond. Such behavior exhibits the traits of a “greedy state,” to paraphrase Charles Glaser, and it is unlikely to be placated by territorial revisions alone. The Pakistani army is defending not just territory but an ideological frontier founded on Islam. And this strategic culture is the basis for understanding the behavior of Pakistan toward India and Afghanistan, as well as its domestic politics, including the army’s domination over civilians on matters of foreign and defense policy.
Fighting to the End argues that Pakistan’s revisionism toward India needs to be understood beyond Kashmir. I agree with Fair on this point. It is naive to believe that somehow solving the Kashmir problem according to the established position of Pakistan will reduce the army’s role in the country. Let us look at the two solutions Pakistanis and Pakistan sympathizers talk about for Kashmir: independence and India ceding Kashmir to Pakistan. In the first instance, an independent Kashmir is likely to become a theater of intense violence (similar to Afghanistan) between Pakistan and India, and perhaps China, because of its strategic location. Over time...